One person was hurt at a Houston-area chemical plant that caught fire and sent thick plumes of black smoke skyward Wednesday for hours before emergency responders managed to knock down most of the flames and hotspots, officials said.
A majority of the fire at the Sound Resource Solutions plant in Shepherd was under control Wednesday afternoon, Emmitt Eldridge, emergency management coordinator for San Jacinto County, told reporters. Officials were starting to “demobilize” the scene, but fire crews would stay there through the night, Eldridge said.
One person who was hurt in the incident is doing well, Eldridge said, without offering specifics. Geoff Harfield, the president of Sound Resource Solutions, said the person had been burned.
“So we’re all really just hoping that that goes well,” Harfield said. “As long as he’s OK, then we can fix the rest.” Officials hoped the employee would be released from the hospital in the coming hours, he said.
The fire, which started Wednesday morning prompted officials to tell nearby students to evacuate and residents to shelter in place. Eldridge said preliminary information shows a worker on a forklift noticed chemicals leaking from a container.
“He went to lift that container up and then he noticed that there was a fire near his ignition,” Eldridge said, adding he couldn’t comment further.
In response to a question about air quality, he said, that as of 4 p.m. CT, there “hasn’t been anything detected in the air.”
The facility, about 60 miles northeast of Houston, focuses on recycling and distributing chemicals, including acids and solvents, the company’s website says.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality did a two-day evaluation at the facility in February, Harfield said.
There were “no deficiencies, not even a suggestion as to what we could do better,” he said. “The company’s tried to be a good steward for 14 years.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to figure out the incident itself, so I don’t want to comment” on that.
By late Wednesday morning, the area under a shelter-in-lace order had been reduced to a 1-mile radius from a 5-mile radius, the emergency management office said. Just a few hours later, officials lifted it entirely.
As the fire grew Wednesday morning, thick black smoke shot up from the plant as the flames kept burning near the ground, aerial footage from CNN affiliate KTRK showed.
CNN’s Joe Sutton and Holly Yan contributed to this report.
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